When you bring up beer styles that are perfect for cold winter weather the most obvious styles people will point to are rich, dark and malty beers like porter and stout. There are a number of other heavy and boozy beers like barleywine, tripel and quadruple that many also use to keep warm in the coldest part of the year. An underappreciated winter style is dopplebock, a dark and higher alcohol German style lager. I love a good dopplebock, the rich malt flavor and clean lager finish combine for a delicious and easy to drink beer when it’s well executed. Unfortunately very few local breweries make dopplebocks, it’s a niche style and requires longer fermentation times at lower temperatures, so it can be a tough sell for breweries operating on thin margins. I was excited to see cans of Fort Hill Dopplebock hit the shelves this fall. Fort Hill has quickly established themselves as a popular option in the local market, making a variety of flavorful beers at a reasonable price point. While their hoppy beers have attracted the bulk of the attention (no surprise there, IPAs pay the bills), Fort Hill makes a wide variety of ales and lagers. Fort Hill Dopplebock is available on a rotating basis on draft and in 12 oz cans.
Fort Hill Dopplebock pours clear deep red with a solid white head. The aroma is mild, just a hint of roasted malt. The beer is malt forward, notes of caramel, bread dough and brown sugar along with a little residual sweetness. There is a touch of hop character that adds earthiness and some balance. Fort Hill Dopplebock is on the light side of medium bodied and at 7.5% ABV is on point for the style. It features a clean lager finish with just a little lingering malt flavor and sweetness. This is a solid dopplebock, I would have liked a little more body and roasted flavor, but there is a lot to like here and it’s great to see another local version of the style. Hoppy Boston score: 4.0/5.
Previous Fort Hill Reviews:
Fort Hill Jigsaw Jazz
Hoppy Boston Dopplebock Week continues with a review of S’muttonator, the bold and malty lager from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Portsmouth, NH. I think Smuttynose has set a blueprint for how a brewery can grow and expand distribution while still staying cutting edge and innovative. In addition to their regular lineup (which has undergone some recent changes), Smuttynose brews many seasonal and specialty releases. One new series is Smuttlabs, single batch releases of experimental brews. S’muttonator is part of the Smuttynose Big Beer Series, seasonal brews that run the gamut of style, but all trend towards high alcohol. This is the perfect place for a dopplebock, one of the highest alcohol lager styles. Smuttnose S’muttonator is sold during the fall on draft and in 22 oz. bombers.
Smuttynose S’muttonator pours a deep amber with a very mild off-white head. The smell is a mixture of semi-sweet malts and a little booze. The taste is very malt forward, as you would expect from a dopplebock, notes of dark chocolate, caramel, fresh baked bread and a little dark fruit. There are minimal hops, just a touch of bite in the finish to help balance out the big malt flavor. This is definitely a big beer at 9.2% ABV, and you do get a little alcohol in the flavor. S’muttonator is full bodied with a thick mouthfeel, so combined with the booze it is definitely a sipper. It finishes clean with a little malt sweetness and warming alcohol in the aftertaste. This beer is awesome, perfect flavor profile for the style, boozy but still drinkable. Hoppy Boston score: 4.75/5.
Previous Smuttynose Reviews:
Smuttynose Vunderbar Pilsner, Smuttynose Bouncyhouse IPA, Smuttynose Durty Brown Ale, Smuttynose Robust Porter, Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA
Craft brewers seem to be very competitive, which has led to the rise of a number of judged beer competitions in the US and internationally. Typically brewers submit their strongest beers and a set of judges do a blind tasting and award medals for the best beers in a particular style. I tend to take the results of these competitions with a grain of salt. Many breweries make small batch beers just to enter in competition and raise awareness for their brewery. It also takes some research to find out what the quality of competition or the qualifications of the judges were. You even get stories like THIS, where a brewery accidentally submitted a beer of the wrong style but was still awarded a medal by the judges. All that being said, when a local beer wins medals at major festivals, it draws my attention. Sam Adams has won a gold medal at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival for their Double Bock each of the last two years. Since it is officially Dopplebock Week on Hoppy Boston I would be remiss to neglect this entry. Sam Adams brews their Double Bock with a blend of two row malts along with caramel malt, then hops with Tettnang Tettnanger and Hallertau Mittelfrueh hops. It is available on draft and in 22 oz. bottles during the winter.
Sam Adams Double Bock pours a deep reddish brown with a substantial cream colored head. The scent is mostly malt, some dark fruit and chocolate. The taste is also very malt forward, notes of plum, raisin, milk chocolate, and fresh bread. As you expect with this style there is very low hop character. The German style lager yeast gives the beer a clean and drinkable character, and also adds some subtle clove flavor. Sam Adams Double Bock drinks incredibly easy for a beer with 9.5% ABV and finishes smooth with a hint of sweetness in the aftertaste. This is a very good version of a dopplebock, I understand why it has received so much acclaim. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.
Previous Sam Adams Reviews:
Sam Adams Cold Snap, Sam Adams Octoberfest
I have spent the last few months focused on drinking and reviewing malty beers, especially malty lagers. My frequent readers might notice that there is one style I haven’t touched upon, the dopplebock. I love dopplebocks, bold and malty, but still smooth and drinkable, they are one of my favorite styles of lager. Dopplebocks are an especially great selection for the late fall/early winter. The full flavor holds up well with hearty food and the higher ABV helps combat the falling temperatures. I admit, I have been holding out a little! I bought a number of dopplebocks and sampled them over the last few weeks so this week I’ll focus my beer reviews on a few of my favorites. Hoppy Boston Dopplebock Week begins with a review of Troegs Brewing Company’s highly regarded dopplebock, which is fittingly named, Troegenator (the -ator suffix is common for traditional German dopplebocks). Troegs brews this dopplebock year round using a combination of Pilsner, Munich and Chocolate malts along with Magnum and German Northern Brewer hops. It is sold on draft, in 12 and 22 oz. bottles and 16 oz. cans.
Troegs Troegenator Dopplebock pours cola brown with a moderate off-white head. The scent is a mixture of bready dark malts and a little boozy alcohol. The flavor is very malt forward, roasted grains, whole wheat toast, dark fruits like plum and raisin, and just a bit of chocolate. There is minimal hop flavor and just a bit of bitterness at the end. The beer is clean and drinkable, with a little lingering alcohol in the flavor. Troegenator drinks pretty easy for a bigger beer, but with a full 8.2% ABV it is a beer made for sipping. Overall this is a very solid version of the dopplebock style, big malt flavor combined with the drinkability that you expect from a lager. Hoppy Boston score: 4.25/5.
Previous Troegs reviews:
Troegs Sunshine Pils
Even though I named this blog Hoppy Boston the intention was always to focus on craft beer from around New England. While I’ve reviewed many beers from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island (along with Massachusetts of course), this is my first review from Connecticut. I spent nearly two years living in CT and it seems that the craft beer scene was just taking off when I moved away. While there are many exciting breweries starting up in the state (many of whom I hope start distributing to MA), one old standby is the Thomas Hooker Brewing Company. Named for the founder of Hartford, Thomas Hooker has been brewing ales and lagers in Bloomflied CT since 2003. They produce a range of year-round and seasonal brews that are distributed to most of the Northeast. One of Thomas Hooker’s most popular year-round beers is Liberator, a German-style Dopplebock. Dopplebocks are typically dark and higher in alcohol, but have a clean finish and lighter mouthfeel due to the cold fermenting lager yeast. Liberator mixes Bavarian Lager yeast with traditional European hops and a range of dark malts.
Thomas Hooker Liberator Dopplebock pours cola brown with a solid but quickly dissipating off-white head. The smell is mostly dark malts, with scents of chocolate, brown sugar and toasted bread. The taste is also very malt forward, milk chocolate, caramel, roasted barley and a little coffee flavor. There is a touch of hops in the backbone that don’t contribute much flavor, but keep the beer from being overly sweet. The beer is pretty light in body and easy to drink for a malt-forward dark beer – you don’t get that heavy mouthfeel that accompanies some big stouts and porters. Despite this lighter mouthfeel, Liberator comes in at a full 8.5% ABV, so this isn’t a light beer by any measure. The finish is very clean, just a hint of malt sweetness in the aftertaste. This is a great winter into spring beer, rich and full enough for the cold yet easier to drink than some heavy winter beers. Hoppy Boston score: 4.5/5.